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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

U.S., U.K. teachers stay on to help care for evacuees

TANOHATA, Iwate Pref. (Kyodo) Three English teachers from the United States and Britain have earned the thanks of evacuees at a shelter in Iwate Prefecture after deciding to stay in the area to offer their help.

The three men's relatives suggested they leave Japan for home, but they chose to work at a shelter in the village of Tanohata, helping to move things and cook meals for several hundred evacuees because they like the community.

Victor Kochaphum, 29, originally from the United States, was an assistant English teacher at the elementary and junior high schools in the village.

He felt the impact of the powerful March 11 earthquake shortly after having lunch in the nearby city of Miyako with countryman Kevin Blake, 33, and Paul Dixon, 24, who is from Britain. Blake and Dixon are assistant high school English teachers in Miyako.

The three evacuated to a friend's place, but while watching TV news about the massive damage to the community they felt they should do something to help people affected by the disaster.

Seiko Ogata, 60, a cooking instructor at the shelter's kitchen, expressed her thanks for the trio's contribution. "It is a tough job to make meals for several hundred evacuees. They are really helpful, as they hold the heavy pans and pots for me."

"Teacher Victor!" cried Ryosei Saito, 13, from Tanohata Junior High School, rushing to greet him at the shelter. "I was worried about you as I heard you had gone to Miyako. I'm glad to see you again."

"I'm relieved to see one of my students," Kochaphum said.

It is not known when schools will start up again. Blake said in fluent Japanese: "The community is firm and the whole town is like a family. I want to stay here and am ready to do my utmost to help people."

A majority of foreigners left stranded in the aftermath of the disaster have been without sufficient language assistance, which is vital to gaining access to relief supplies.

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